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Featured TV on DVD Review: Manson My Name is Evil

October 11th, 2010

Manson, My Name is Evil - Buy from Amazon

When it comes to movies inspired by real life serial killers, they generally fall under three categories. First, there are the films that try to improve our understanding of the criminals and those that go after them, like Zodiac. There are also exploitation films that use real life tragedies to make money. Then there are those that only use the real life events in the most tangential ways. So which category does Manson, My Name is Evil fall under?

The Movie

The movie starts at the trial of the Manson family, specifically the three women who participated in the brutal killings that made the cult infamous. Here we meet Perry, a young man from a conservative Christian background. While he is being evaluated to be a juror, he spots Leslie, and he falls in love. However, that Leslie is Leslie Van Houten, one of the people on trial. We then flash back to the ways their lives were just a few years earlier and how their divergent paths are an allegory to the political situation at the time.

About five minutes into the movie and that's all the plot I can give without entering unacceptable spoiler territory. (I was thinking that since it is based on real life events, there's a lot here that people who know about the time period will know already. But the details and events surrounding Perry's life are 100% made up for the movie, and I certainly wouldn't use this film as a history lesson on Manson.)

The film is essentially a political statement that compares the horrors of Vietnam to the mass murder killings of the Manson cult. It also compares the absolute faith and devotion both sides relied on. Is the film successful in this regard? Well, it's about as subtle as a Benny Hill marathon, but it does hammer the point home. I also think the use of archival footage mixed within the narrative is effective. It is entertaining in a warped black comedy kind of way. On the other hand, the film does try to do too much and some parts have to be sacrificed as a result.

One of these areas that was sacrificed was the whole Manson angle. This is barely touched on, which means we don't know what it is that drew most of these people to Charles Manson in the first place. Yes, in a movie released on DVD as Manson, My Name is Evil, Charles Manson is barely a side character. This is why the film was originally named, Leslie, My Name is Evil. This wouldn't change the film in a substantive way, but it would definitely change how people approach the movie. A lot of people will either go in expecting cheap exploitation, or will avoid the movie for the same reason. This is a real shame, because despite its flaws, it's worth checking out.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD.

The Verdict

Manson, My Name is Evil is a film that tries to do too much, which means it doesn't live up to its potential. Despite this, it works enough that it is worth checking out. However, with a featureless DVD, I would definitely start with a rental.

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